The Detroit Zoo is taking something all zoos have a lot of … animal fecal matter … and turning it into something no one seems to have enough of … energy.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has teamed with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to turn use an energy-producing biodigester to turn that waste into something more useful … compost and methane-rich gas (biogas). That’s the power of poo.
Through the Michigan-based crowdfund platform Patronicity, the DZS plan to raise $55,000 in funds by June 1. If this goal can be met it will be matched by a grant from the MDEC. For project details and to donate, visit www.Patronicity.com/DetroitZoo.
“We are pleased to partner with the Detroit Zoo and support this eco-friendly, energy-saving project,” said MEDC Community Development Director Katharine Czarnecki. “This campaign will allow residents, businesses and everyone who appreciates the zoo and the positive impact it has on metro Detroit to be a part of this innovative undertaking.”
There is plenty of “product” … 400 tons of manure from all animal types big and small is produced at the zoo in the course of a year. The biodigester will turn this mass into methane-rich gas. All that power already has a planned home. It will help power the 18,000- sq.-ft. Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. That adds up to a $70,000 -$80,000 savings a year in energy costs for the zoo.
The system will also convert manure into compost that will be used to fertilize animal habitats, gardens and public spaces throughout the 125-acre zoo.
“The biodigester will turn one of our most abundant resources – manure – into energy, and represents a significant step on our green journey,” said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO.
As an added plus the biodigester will also be a resource for the DZS’s environmental education programming for K-12 students. It will also provide internship opportunities for post-secondary students in environmental sciences and engineering.
Construction of the biodogester begins this spring in the administrative area and should be wrapped up by fall. Once completed this will be the first zoo-based system of its kinds in the country.
Here’s how it works. The anaerobic digestion (the proper name) takes biomass (plant and animal materials) and breaks it down with micro-organisms in the absence of air. Once placed inside a sealed container, naturally occurring micro-organisms release methane-rich gas as they digest the biomass. The gas produced can then be used for heat and power, cutting the need for fossil fuels. What is left makes an excellent nutrient rich fertilizer.
This is only one of the initiatives taken by the DZS’s Greenprint to improve daily practices and facilities, develop new policies and programs and improve green literacy in the community. The zoo’s energy goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity and natural gas use by 20% below 2009 baseline levels by the end of 2015, and to become entirely zero-waste by 2020. In 2014 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums honored the DZS with a Green Award for its drive to continuously improve sustainability.
For project details and to donate, visit www.Patronicity.com/DetroitZoo.